All horse riding disciplines require one thing more than any other; focus. From the moment your step into the arena, you’ll be thrown into an intense period of high focus.
So what can you do to make sure you maintain that focus and don’t get distracted?
Here are 10 great tips:
1. Meditate beforehand.
If you find yourself getting increasingly nervous before a test, slow down. Close your eyes. Take some times to let your thoughts settle down. Try to make sure that your thoughts patterns are simple. That way, you can avoid cluttering yourself and stumbling when you are out on the arena.
2. Start with routine.
It’s nice to have a small set of simple tasks you complete before going out to compete. It can be as simple as filling a bottle of water or packing a few things up. It needs to be simple and small.
It can take your mind of the stressors and get you into a more neutral space.
3. Listen to music.
Music can put you into all sorts of moods and you can use that to your advantage.
It all depends on what works for you: music that relaxes you, inspires you, or pumps you up.
4. Don’t be negative.
Whatever is happening before a test, bring a positive interpretation. If something goes wrong during a test, remember the value of learning & growing that comes with error.
Negative thinking leads to more negative thinking, and can throw you into a hole that it hard to climb out of.
5. Body scan.
This is a neat little trick. Close your eyes and begin by focusing on the top of your head. Focus on what you are feeling – allow sensations to come and go.
Then, slowly move your focus down your body, to your neck, your shoulders, your chest etc. All the way down to your feet. Doing a body scan will help you release any tension that has been building up.
6. Enjoy your nervousness.
If you can do this trick, it will work excellently for you. Instead of being afraid of your nervousness, embrace it. Sport and competition is all about the intensity of the experience, including your nerves. Feel the fire in your belly and use that energy to propel yourself onwards.
7. It’s not about complete control.
A common mistake it to aim for total control while riding or competing. This never works; mistakes are always made. It’s unavoidable.
Instead, focus on stacking the odds in your favour. There will always be a certain chance something will go wrong.
Focus on making that chance as small as possible. If it does go wrong, don’t worry. You’re still in control, because you’re controlling the chance things will go well and not the absolute certainty that they will. It’s a small change in psychology, but will help you overcome your emotional response to small errors.
8. Maintain pressure.
You should always be alert. To avoid having your focus slip, aim for a constant level of pressure you apply to the competition. Never pull back or relax mid-ride, but don’t overdo the focus either. Consistency is key here.
9. Practise mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about being aware of your thoughts without being judgemental of them. Take some time before a test to step aside, relax and listen to your brain. Be aware of all the thoughts you’re having. Try to clear your mind, but don’t fight the thoughts that come up. Let them come and then go.
If you’re thoughts are negative, that’s okay. Don’t try to change them, just allow them to move on and be aware of how your brain is working. This can do wonders for your mind when you do go out and ride; you’ll be clearer and more focused.
10. Use your training.
All those hours spent preparing for the moment of competition are still there with you. You don’t have to prove yourself every time you ride; you’ve already done that with the countless hours you’ve spent training.
Make sure that you trust your training and make use of it. If you practised a certain movement hundreds of times, allow your training to take control. Don’t overthink things.